Trump Poised To Consolidate Control of GOP at Meeting Next Week, Despite Last-Ditch Effort To Keep RNC Neutral

A proposed resolution barring the Republican National Committee from covering President Trump’s legal fees is unlikely to pass or even be voted on.

AP/Alex Brandon
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel at an event November 9, 2022, at Washington. AP/Alex Brandon

The Republican National Committee is poised for a leadership shakeup when it meets at Houston next weekend, and at least one RNC member is trying to put the brakes on President Trump’s efforts to consolidate control of the party apparatus.

A committee member from Mississippi, Henry Barbour, is sponsoring two resolutions for the committee to consider — one, to require the committee to remain neutral in the presidential primary until one candidate gets the requisite 1,215 delegates to clinch the nomination; and two, to prohibit RNC funds from being used to pay the legal bills of any Republican candidates.

The latter resolution is clearly aimed at Mr. Trump, who is facing millions in legal fees and is pushing for loyalists and family to run the committee. The problem is, it’s likely too little, too late. “I don’t see it getting any traction,” New Hampshire Republican Party chairman, Chris Ager, tells the Sun of the resolutions. By the end of March, he says, it looks like the primary contest would be mathematically over anyway?”

Mr. Trump beat Nikki Haley by more than 20 points on Saturday in South Carolina, Ms. Haley’s home state. He is leading in polls in upcoming primary states as well. Mr. Trump is poised to clinch the Republican Party nomination by the end of March — and control of the Republican National Committee as well. The RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, announced in a statement Monday that she will be resigning from her position on March 8.

That’s when the committee will gather for its spring meeting at Houston to vote on a new chairman and co-chairman. Ms. McDaniel’s departure was expected, as Mr. Trump reportedly pressured her to step down since they met at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. Ms. McDaniel said she would make the announcement after the South Carolina primary. To replace her, Mr. Trump has endorsed the North Carolina Republican Party chairman, Michael Whatley.

Mr. Trump also has endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, for co-chairwoman. While Mr. Trump is known for keeping his family close, this latter endorsement caught some by surprise. RNC bylaws stipulate that the chairman and co-chairman be a woman and a man.

A RNC member from Connecticut, Leora Levy, says Ms. McDaniel has been unfairly maligned and blamed for losses in 2018, 2020, and 2022. “Ronna has been a terrific chair,” Ms. Levy says. She says Mr. Whatley is also “terrific.”

“I was the first RNC member to endorse Trump, and I still support him strongly,” Ms. Levy says. “I feel bad for her.”

“Mike Whatley is a highly respected and liked guy with many accomplishments so I think he will go unopposed,” a Republican National Committee member from Massachusetts, Janet Fogarty, tells the Sun.

Lara Trump is also running unopposed, at least so far. “People will do their due diligence just to make sure it’s a good fit,” Mr. Ager says. “The president’s and the presumptive nominee’s opinion matters.”

Mr. Barbour’s second resolution on legal fees is likely a response to the nomination of Lara Trump and to comments she made last week that GOP voters “absolutely” would be open to the RNC paying some or all of Mr. Trump’s legal fees, if it conforms to committee rules. “I think that’s a big interest to people,” she said.

Of the legal fees resolution, Mr. Ager says such a broad rule barring the payment of legal fees ignores the very real threat of political lawfare, and he says the RNC should look at these instances “case by case.” Ms. Fogarty says she would be open to the RNC helping with Mr. Trump’s legal fees if the money was raised with that specific use clearly stated. “If there is a separate line item for legal defense,” she says, “I’m not averse to that.”

Ms. Fogarty says for all the attention Mr. Barbour’s two resolutions are getting, the reality is that it’s “highly unlikely” either will pass or even be voted on. “The resolutions committee doesn’t meet during the spring meeting,” she says. “In order to have it be voted on without going through the resolutions committee, it would require two members from a minimum of ten states to sign on and it would have to be done by I think tomorrow,” she says.

Ms. Levy says the obsession with RNC insider baseball makes the party look more divided than it is. “What is happening is meant to strengthen the party, not divide the party,” she says. “And I just want Democrats to know that they are going to have an adversary in the Republican Party. We are going to elect our nominee.”

“We’re coming and we’ll be united,” Ms. Levy warns.  

The New York Sun

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